Owls, Fireflies, and Jesus
Last summer, few people had heard of Owl City, the one-man synth band masterminded by 23-year-old Adam Young of Owatonna, Minnesota. But when his first label album, Ocean Eyes, went online on July 14, the iTunes music store chose "Fireflies" as its single of the week. The next thing Young knew, he was practically redefining the term "overnight sensation." "Fireflies" had 650,000 downloads that first week, and it wasn't long before it was the No. 1 song in the U.S. (It has been played almost 30 million times at his MySpace page.) Suddenly, everybody knew who Owl City was, and album sales skyrocketed. A star was born.
What many people don't know about the young man behind the irresistibly catchy tunes, the sweet voice, and the silly-fun lyrics ("I'd get a thousand hugs / From ten thousand lightning bugs / As they tried to teach me how to dance") is that he's a devout Christian who takes his faith as seriously as his music. We caught up with Young recently on his U.S. spring tour—via e-mail, because he's too shy to do interviews in person—where he was selling out small theaters across the country. Many of those tickets went to teenage girls, who screamed and squealed nightly as he took the stage. And they sang along. To. Every. Single. Word.
I've read that you're pretty shy, but you put on a dynamic live show. What brings you out of your shell on stage?
I quite like my shell and often prefer it over the bustle of social gatherings, wedding receptions, parties, or any large group of people for that matter. Even Christmas holidays can feel a bit "too close" for me, so it really is ironic that such a reclusive hermit like myself has landed the job of a social butterfly. I don't really have anything else to offer other than pointing out the irony that lies therein, and honestly tell you that when I step onstage in front an audience each night and begin to play, something comes over me and I don't feel a single nervous pang.
Despite being shaky and quite flustered every night before going on, performing is an incredibly comfortable process after the show has started and the wheels are in motion. Sudden notoriety has done nothing to change the shy person I was born as, and though I don't see that trait even changing, I am totally okay with it. I'm the sort of person who enjoys listening a lot more than speaking. I suppose I'm the classic definition of a lone wolf.
Your schedule looks grueling, with tours of the U.S., Asia, and Europe. And you struggle with insomnia. How do you do it?
Sleeping is a challenge for me. Exhaustion is inevitable on tour and the ability to fall asleep is much harder in a tour bus than at home, so I find myself awake most nights, which often results in sickness. The common cold is basically my best friend. I've learned to deal with it, however and I've almost grown used to the rigors of life on the road.
Universal apparently wants you to start working on your next album in May, as soon as you come off tour. Do you need time to unwind before the creative juices start flowing again?
There's nothing I love more than retiring into the comfort of my cozy little house in my hometown and letting the creative juices flow without being bothered. Being on the road is tough and also fulfilling, but I see this coming May and the job of writing and recording the next record a "vacation" of sorts. I'm excited to get to work.
What's the source of your creativity?
Faith and imagination. Faith is the reason I do what I do, imagination is the fuel that keeps the creativity flowing. The Lord Jesus Christ is my reason for creating and I have nothing but thanks and gratitude toward him for being allowed to do what I do, and ultimately, seize my wildest dreams as if they were just there waiting for me.